Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year


As this year draws to a close and we all prepare for 2012 I would like to wish all my readers and fellow bloggers joy and prosperity in 2012.

It would be easy to look back on 2011 and remember a number of horrendous natural disasters, the nuclear incident in Japan. Arab Spring, revolutions, riots, state sponsored assassinations, the worldwide depression and failing relationships between the USA and countries like Pakistan and Iran. If this is what you remember then you will be correct in saying 2011 was a terrible year.

Conversely, you may remember events such as the British Royal Weddings, the young Indonesian girl who was reunited with her family 7 years after being swept away by the 2004 Tsunami, the centenarian who ran a marathon. the Social project being rolled out across the world to use plastic bottles and bleached water to provide light in shanty town houses. the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, a number of crucial advances in medicine and for all the kids out there (big and small) the screening of the last of the Harry Potter films. Look at the world this way and it has been a truly great year.

As we move into 2012, I hope that each of us can find more of the positive things to look back on during the year. Many people will be making their New Year’s resolutions, mine will be to take more opportunities to stop and admire (and give thanks for) the view as the year passes. By this I mean I want to take more time to spend with those I love, doing the things I like to do. Hopefully this will include doing more with my Family, Church and the Guernsey Chronic Pain Support Group and Guernsey Poets.

Finally it would be remiss of me to leave 2011 without saying huge THANK YOU to all the family, friends and medical specialists who have helped me to manage my life living with the constant burden of CRPS. I am certain that had it not been for them I would not be here to write this blog.

This is a Poem I wrote after Last Year’s New Year Celebrations.

New Year

The nation watches the clock expectantly,
looking forward.
Westminster Quarters sound the full hour.
The nation waits…..
The hammer strikes;
The Great Bell rings out.
Its discordant chime radiates across London
to the far flung corners of the land.
A mighty cheer goes up,
Fireworks race towards the sky
trailing sparkling ribbons of light
before exploding in a myriad of colours.
Amidst the cacophony the remaining chimes pass unheard.
As the dancing reflections on the Thames fade,
strangers clasp hands
voices lift to the strain of Auld Lang Syne
and thoughts reflect the year behind.

John Carré Buchanan
02 January 2011

Friday, 30 December 2011

The Cake


I have always enjoyed baking and decorating cakes, and over the years I have become reasonably competent at it.

Each year I make a Christmas cake and a Yule Log and in the past I have spent over 30 hours putting elaborate icing onto a Christmas Cake.

Unfortunately over the last few years I have not been able to sit long enough to create a really elaborate finish. That said this year I did come up with a reasonably good cake, which I took to share at church.

Whilst creating this year’s cakes I had to hide them from our cat’s and dog. I was half way through emptying a cupboard in which I could hide them when I remembered a cake my wife made for my daughter’s Birthday, and a Yule Log I made a few years ago. These two memories gave me the inspiration to write this poem.

The Cake

The baking tin was triple wrapped,
brown paper, tied with string,
when a lumpy, brown, sticky mix
was poured from height therein.

The oven had been warming up,
when the door was pulled asunder
and the tin was placed atop a shelf
not middle, but just under.

Slowly the sticky mixture baked?
and gradually it did harden,
'till tested ready with a skewer,
from the furnace it was pardoned.

Cooled in tin, and then on rack,
and bathed in cooking brandy,
then wrapped and stored and bathed,
some more was modus operandi.

The rich brown fruit cake was liberated,
and brushed with sticky jam.
Then wrapped in a golden covering
of evenly rolled marzipan.

Next came the icing. Purest white
and smoothly layered all over.
Then left to set and layered again
sheer white like cliffs at Dover.

Now for the deftly placed nozzle
a squeeze, a press and withdraw
colourful piping surrounded the base
then around the top ‘encore’.

Figures were sculptured in marzipan.
The nativity scene oh so neat,
the beautiful cake was finished,
all that was left is to eat.

The cake looked so impressive,
with its nativity scene, so unique,
nobody wanted to cut it,
So it sat on the table all week.

People hungrily admired it,
but no one dared take a slice,
then late last night for his supper,
the dog ate it all in a trice.

John Carré Buchanan
30 December 2011

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas to one and all.

I hope that everyone has an enjoyable day with friends and family.

To those serving overseas, who are separated from your loved ones, my thoughts and prayers are with you. The following Poem is not my own, I believe it was written by a US Soldier called Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt, (1986)

I could not say it better;

A SOLDIER’S CHRISTMAS – James M. Schmidt, Lance Corporal (1986)

Twas the night before Christmas,
He lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of
Plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney
With presents to give,
And to see just who
In this home did live.

I looked all about,
A strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents,
Not even a tree.

No stocking by mantle,
Just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures
Of far distant lands.

With medals and badges,
Awards of all kinds,
A sober thought
Came through my mind.

For this house was different,
It was dark and dreary,
I found the home of a soldier,
Once I could see clearly.

The soldier lay sleeping,
Silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor
In this one bedroom home.

The face was so gentle,
The room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured
A United States soldier.

Was this the hero
Of whom I’d just read?
Curled up on a poncho,
The floor for a bed?

I realized the families
That I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers
Who were willing to fight.

Soon round the world,
The children would play,
And grownups would celebrate
A bright Christmas Day.

They all enjoyed freedom
Each month of the year,
Because of the soldiers,
Like the one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder
How many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve
In a land far from home.

The very thought
Brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees
And started to cry.

The soldier awakened
And I heard a rough voice,
“Santa don’t cry,
This life is my choice;

I fight for freedom,
I don’t ask for more,
My life is my God,
My Country, my Corps.”

The soldier rolled over
And drifted to sleep,
I couldn’t control it,
I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours,
So silent and still
And we both shivered
From the cold night’s chill.

I didn’t want to leave
On that cold, dark, night,
This guardian of honour
So willing to fight.

Then the soldier rolled over,
With a voice soft and pure,
Whispered, “Carry on Santa,
It’s Christmas Day, all is secure.”

One look at my watch,
And I knew he was right.
“Merry Christmas, my friend,
And to all a good night.”

James M. Schmidt, Lance Corporal
(1986)

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas


Every year I hear people complain about how commercial Christmas is. I listen to them complain about stress, expense, lack of time, who’s cooking what and ….Oh the list is endless.

Up until this year I have just got on with it and enjoyed it as much as I have been able. Usually I have been at home but occasionally I was overseas on operations. Whatever the case I have always tried to enjoy what I see as a season of joy and happiness.

This year though there is something a little different in that this year I became a Christian, and as such feel better qualified to make a comment on the subject. I have done this in the form of a poem, which as a special treat I have turned into a short narrated slide movie. I hope you enjoy it.

Please let me know what you think?

video

Christmas in perspective

Leaves on the trees are gold and red
When the first advert is cast,
Like ripples in a pool the panic spreads
this year; earlier than last.

We rush to buy the most “in” gift
And find the perfect card
There is no thought of thrift
As we wrap paper by the yard.

As advent starts the rush is on
The final push has started
but stop and think at what has gone
and how this whole thing started.

Born of a virgin, in a stable,
The Christ child came to save us.
Shepherds, Magi and Heavenly host
praised the infant Jesus.

He lived a life of humility
to help his fellow man.
As son of God he gave his life
to forgive the sins of Man.

So stop the rush from shop to shop
Don’t battle through the throng
Don’t spend obscene amounts, just stop
And think where it’s gone wrong.

Remember those less fortunate
They’re starving, scared, alone
pray for them and share with them
you could open up your home.

Make this Christmas a special one
like it’s supposed to be
A time for sharing, a time for joy
And giving thanks for a little boy.

John Carré Buchanan
11 December 2011

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Drizzle


Today I had a meeting in London which unfortunately, I had to attend. Having flown from Guernsey to Gatwick I took the train into central London this meant that I had to stand in the cold drizzle on a station platform for quarter of an hour waiting for a train to arrive.

Three minutes before the train was due an announcement came over the platform speakers telling everyone that there was to be a platform change. With all the escalators bringing people down onto the platform it meant that the only way to change platform was to use the steps. “Whoopee” I hear you say, “big deal”.

Well when tethered to the ground by two walking sticks and having a top speed of a startled tortoise it was going to be a major challenge. Fortunately, being Britain, the train was a couple of minutes late and I managed to change platforms with just enough time to board the train.

Having arrived early for the meeting, I decided to write a poem about a station platform I remember from a dim and distant past. I hope you enjoy it;

Drizzle

The biting cold wind blows the rain in,
not the hard downpour that people sit out
but the incessant drizzle that seeps in.
The tiny irritating droplets that seep through
the most resilient waterproof.
The type of rain that sets in for the day.

Travellers huddle on the platform,
using a closed café as a wind break.
Thick coats, warm gloves, hats, scarves.
are not enough to cheer their grim faces.
With chins tucked low into raised collars
they hide like primeval man in the lee of a stone.

A voice crackles; “The Train approaching….
Heads lift and turn to the right in unison,
Slowly a train rumbles into the station.
Reluctantly passengers move to toe the line
the train stops, doors open to the awkward dance
as passengers tussle to get in or out of the rain.

John Carré Buchanan
8th December 2011

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Haiku


The ancient pond,
A frog jumps in.
The sound of the water.

Matsuo Bashou (1686)

I have been writing fairly standard poetry for some time and decided to branch out a little and explore the Haiku.

The Haiku is a styalised Japanese poem, the English version of which follows these basic rules;

1. Haiku do not have to rhyme,
2. Haiku have 3 lines,
3. The lines have 5, 7 and 5 syllables, (these aren’t “syllables” in the western language sense)
4. Ideally they should contain a word that conjures up an image of a season.

This evening I wrote my first eight which I hope hope you enjoy.

Bullies

The hurricane hit hard,
The oak stood firm against all,
Then hit back harder.

Hibernating

Soft mound of dried leaves,
Hedgehogs missing from garden,
Slow heart beat below.

Cobo *

Waves pound rocky shore,
White spume flies high in the sky,
Fish and chips on wall.

* Cobo is one of the biggest beaches in Guernsey, it also has one of the best fish and chip Shops on the Island. There is not much better then sitting on the sea wall on a summer evening and eating fish and chips.

Changes

Caterpillar eats,
Chrysalis hardens on twig,
Beauty flies aloft.

Felix

Cat curls in tight ball,
Purring softly in its sleep,
Claws steeped in dried blood.

Poppies

Fields of pink petals,
Flutter in the Afghan breeze,
Junkie dies in street.

Surfer

Waves power shoreward,
Growing taller and taller,
Lone surfer wipes out.

Kite

Clear blue sky stares down,
Light bounces from rippling sea,
Red kite intrudes.

John Carré Buchanan
03 December 2011

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Prosthetics


Whilst researching my book I have learnt a fair bit about prosthetics. I thought it might be an interesting challenge to write a poem on the history of prosthetics using both rhyme and the technical terminology.

Apart from the amazing advances made by people with extraordinary vision; I believe there were four main take away points;

The first is that the vast majority of amputations are the direct result of lifestyle choices which end up with poor vascular circulation, with diabetes being the main offender.

Secondly, were it not for war and the funding made available by the military to develop prosthetics and related technologies; there would not be sufficient funding to accommodate the huge demand placed on health services by the civilian demand for prosthetics.

Third, injured warriors tend to be young, healthy and determined to recover as much functionality as they can. This is significantly different to the vast majority of amputees, consequently their recoveries tend to be more successful than that of their civilian counterparts.

Finally, despite the improvements in technology, and the promise of things to come; mother nature provides us with amazing bodies which we should make every effort to take care of.

Prosthetics

Egyptologists discovered
a mummy’s big toe
made of leather and wood
four millennia ago.

Down through the ages
Man’s tried many things.
From peg-legs for pirates,
to Bader’s tin limbs.

In the sixteen century
a Frenchman named Paré
used amputation
to help victims fare.

Three hundred years later
Surgeons used anaesthetics,
now they had time
to make stumps more aesthetic.

Then ‘attachment’ improved -
in eighteen sixty three,
with the pressurised sockets
used by Doctor Parmelee.

The twentieth century,
dominated by war
Saw prosthetic development
make improvements galore

With the First World War
came aluminium and power
as soldiers lost limbs,
hour upon hour.

In nineteen forty six
Berkley UC
developed a suction sock
For use above the knee

In’75 a man named Martinez
changed the engineers brief;
from replication of nature
to functional relief.

In workshops and hospitals
pioneers strive together
their aim to match nature.
Some plan to do better!

Multidisciplinary teams
treat the patient as whole.
They develop a person
and rebuild their soul.

In the last twenty years
There’s been huge innovation
in Myoelectricity and
Targeted Re-innervation.

Surgeons re-position nerves
to gain myoelectric improvement.
They attach to skin for feedback;
and muscle for movement.

Sensors detect the mind’s signals,
processors issue commands.
Servos drive motors and rotators
and the prosthesis meets the demand

Osseointegration;
now there’s a very long word,
uses alloplastic materials
to achieve something absurd.

It allows man made materials
to be fused to live bone.
allowing prosthesis and amputee
to be joined as one.

Significant advances in medicine
have reduced rejection rates,
They now use donor bone marrow
When they transplant hands and face.

Regenerative medicine?
Science fiction at best,
but add powdered pigs bladder
and now we’re impressed!

Improving the human body
sounds like a pipe dream
but it’s going to be possible
though nothing too extreme .

The sprinter Oscar Pistorius
runs on carbon blades.
He passes able body runners
as if they promenade.

Whilst not advanced enough
to restore a person’s vision
The brain port upon a tongue
can help avoid collision.

For it provides a tingle
which forms a certain trace
and allows the blind to identify
an object or a face.

Improvements come fastest
when nations are at war.
For funding from the military
opens many doors.

Young warriors are fitter
then the average amputee,
and lessons learnt repairing them
benefit humanity.

Yes warriors lose limbs
It’s an ugly fact of war,
but bad lifestyle choices
take many, many more.

John Carré Buchanan
30 November 2011

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Oak Tree


During recent weeks I have read a number of blogs which tackle the subject of bullying, most recently one by on Sammie's blog Sammie Writes . This has inspired me to post a poem I wrote a while back on the same subject.

My view is that bullying, whether emotional or physical, personal or national, should always be condemned.

The Oak Tree

I lay awake and waited,
I knew that they would come,
I lay awake and waited.

They came at me,
Like an Oak I stood,
They came at me.

Their torrents raged,
With stick and boot,
Their torrents raged.

I took their beatings silently,
They could not make me cry,
I took their beatings silently.

I dared not cry,
I knew that’s what they wanted,
I did not cry.

It weren’t much fun,
For me – or them,
It weren’t much fun.

They moved right on,
Coz it weren’t much fun,
They moved right on.

Years later on I met their type,
On battlefield with gun,
Years later on I met their type.

This time I stood before the young,
My body as a shield,
This time I stood before the young,

And it weren’t much fun.

John Carré Buchanan
14th June 2010

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Writer's Block


Having recovered from my recent Flare Up, I realised that the way I presented the subject matter in my last three posts was probably too downbeat for people to enjoy. I guess we live and learn!

Since I returned to the land of the living I have been looking for inspiration for some lighter poems on which to base my next blogs. Unfortunately I am still looking, so I will use a poem I wrote last time I got stuck;

Writers Block

Sitting on a rocky outcrop,
Trying to write a poem,
Don’t know what to write about,
My mind it must be goin’.

The pencil hovers o’er the page
Waiting for inspiration,
The empty page reflects the sun.
I bead with perspiration.

It seems a poem has found the page.
I’m not quite sure how.
I better quit while I’m ahead,
I must be goin’ now.

John Carré Buchanan
17 July 2010

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

1:40 - Worth It?


This poem is the last of the series I began last week showing how planning for a flare up and the time immediately after it could minimise the impact that the flare up has on people who suffer from Chronic Pain.

The last four days have been particularly unpleasant, but they could have been far worse for me if I had not prepared for them. The process of planning for the flare up and discussing my plans with my support group, (whilst remaining flexible enough to allow the plan to change) has allowed me to come out of the flare up without getting depressed.

For most readers taking 120 hours to plan and recover from an event which in itself took three hours might not seem too much of a success, but the fact that on this occasion I was able to do something which I really wanted to do and was able to prevent myself falling into depression was a major achievement.

If anyone has been affected by my last few blogs, please re-read them and see the hope and satisfaction that was in them. You may then understand that the underlying message is, it is possible to come through a difficult patch if you have the time to plan how you intend dealing with it and you communicate that plan with your support team. The measure of success has to be; is three hours of pleasure worth one hundred and twenty hours of hard work? On this occasion, I believe it was.

Normality Returns

Sometime in the night he’d fallen asleep
It had been after half past four,
now he was awake.
There was movement in the house.
Checking his watch; it was seven.

He felt rested, two and a half hours
after four days and he felt rested.
As always the taste of vomit was there
but the searing pain, the burning pain
that devoured every scrap of reason had gone.

Four days of torture, with no reprieve.
Nights of constant questioning.
Hour on hour pushing back and holding firm.
The sand pitted and scuffed by the mighty battle
but the line remained uncrossed.

This was a battle well fought
Planned from inception.
One hundred and twenty hours
Set aside for just three
And all the while depression held at bay.

Now back to normality.
when sat or stood always timed.
Lawyers, doctors, medication,
plans for every little thing,
just to keep the demons at bay.

John Carré Buchanan
16 November 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011

Morning


Last night was one of those nights when there was a price to pay for my doing something I wanted to do rather than doing what I should have done during the day. My last post discussed how I had planned for the resultant Flare Up.

As expected the night was not too pleasant and I spent most of it using mind games to keep myself from cracking up. This shows how effective mind games can be in dealing with chronic pain. It must be stressed that they do not stop the pain, but they do stop depression and by so doing they also stop irrational behaviour.

Morning

In the distance an alarm clock sounds briefly
beep – beep; beep – beep.
Relief floods in as another night draws to a close.
In the kitchen slippers scuff the tiles.
A click heralds the soft purr of the kettle warming.
Soft footfall draws nearer.
The rattle of the doorknob heralds the light beam
as the door swings open.
Her face peers into the gloom,
their eyes meet with clear understanding;
another sleepless night.
She crosses the room and opens the curtains
and the last demon flees.
Now he is safe,
racked in pain with the familiar taste of vomit in his mouth;
but safe.
The fear of acting on his thoughts conquered.
The desire to end all, silenced for another day.
For in the lonely hours, wrapped in pain
curled in a foetal ball, he had wept
tears mingling with sweat on the sheets,
face contorted with the silent screams
as the body spasmed time and time again
and the mind fought itself to a standstill.
He’d applied the technique to his thought.
Demons had hurled the seeds of doubt,
and stabbed deep, the knives of harm and hurt
his guardian had ‘challenged’, ‘normalised’….
...... Oh buzz words be dammed.
His guardian had fought, fought all night,
using every ounce of strength and he had won,
but now he had to face it all again.
They'd talk about it later, analyse it and improve.
He glanced at his watch, took the morning meds
and lay back to wait for the calm;
the calm before the storm, that was another day.

John Carré Buchanan
14 November 2011

Pacing Plans


Remembrance Sunday is a very important day for me. Even before I became a Christian, I used to go to the memorial service and pay my respects. Nowadays I feel the need to go even more strongly than when I was serving.

This morning I took my son to the local service. As I was one of the few veterans attending we were asked to lay a wreath on behalf of the British Legion. Following the laying of the wreaths we walked a short distance to the church where there was a particularly touching service. In all I stood for about 25 minutes and walk about 400 metres on sticks but it turned out to be too much for me. I spent the afternoon taking things very easily, but all the while I could feel the tell tail signs of a flare up coming on. It finally hit hard at about 4 o’clock this afternoon and despite having taken all the meds and run through the techniques I use to manage such situations I am still sliding.

Fortunately, last Sunday I built the service into my week’s pacing plan and was careful to build in an expectation that the afternoon and tonight would be very difficult. I planned an afternoon of reading poetry and other activities which would minimise my discomfort. I also made sure that I let my family know what was likely to happen so that they would not be fussing around me, something which makes me feel guilty and depressed. In short I prepared myself and my support team physically and mentally for a difficult time.

I also decided that I would post the following poem in the late evening. The poem describes what it is like to have a flare up. It does not make comfortable reading, but I’m hoping that it will demonstrate to other pain sufferers that if you pace yourself and plan how you are going to deal with a flare up it is possible to achieve things you might not normally achieve.

I know this strategy doesn’t help on the occasions when you get caught out but the old Army saying known as the 7 P’s is worth remembering; Prior Preparation and Planning Prevent Piss Poor Performance.

Flare Up

The tormenting ache is obscured
replaced by searing agony.
I feel the flesh melt,
Imagine the blisters as they bubble,
blacken and crisp over.
The edges split and retract
to reveal red tissue below.
It blackens and the cycle starts again.

My mind tells me it’s not true,
burnt nerves can’t feel.
but this is no ordinary fire
no water can quench these flames.
Born deep within neural pathways
they burn as intense as
the a charcoal maker’s kiln
consuming all reason and sanity.

Bed covers lie thrown back
the soft linen had burnt;
as its folds crept like molten lava,
and scorched everything in their path.
The mind fights for control
looking to stem the flow
as if closing the sluice on a stream
but the gate valve is stuck.

Thoughts are marshalled,
challenged and found wanting.
Well-rehearsed counter points are delivered.
Slowly control is regained.
Unhelpful thoughts rally for a final push
but once again the mind delivers a ‘coup de grace’,
another battle is won
and the leg will bare weight today.

John Carré Buchanan
19th August 2011

Friday, 11 November 2011

Lest We Forget


Today we remember those who have lost their lives or been harmed in the service of their Nation. At 11 O’clock bugles will call ‘Last Post’ and a silence will fall. Two minutes later bugles will play ‘Rouse’ or ‘Reveille’ and the normal hubbub of life will return.

Those precious two minutes, repeated on Sunday, may be the only time in the whole year when most of the population actually thinks about what our service personnel have done in order to protect the freedoms we take for granted. That said here in Britain our armed forces are respected and even loved by the general public.

The British public who at times seem so indifferent to just about everything are rightfully proud of their Service Personnel. This was demonstrated time and again as they gathered in the High Street of Wootton Bassett (now Royal Wootton Bassett) to show their respect for repatriated service personnel. The public are also quick to jump to arms when they see the government failing to meet its obligations under the terms of the Military Covenant.

This respect comes from one underlying truth that despite not being the best equipped forces in the world The British Armed Forces are certainly the most highly regarded troops on the planet.

As I observe the silence at 11 O’clock I will hold my head up proudly and think of Service men and women past and present who have given their lives or been harmed in defence of the realm. I hope that you will join me.

Lest We Forget.

Remembrance

The bugle calls ‘Last Post’
Silence descends
Some heads bow in prayer
Others gaze into the distance.

The wind stirs leaves
Swirling them around
As if they’re the souls
Of the fallen - visiting.

In our minds
thoughts turn to those
who stood in harm’s way;
and met it.

Fallen heroes,
those buried with honour
at home and overseas
have names carved in stone.

Then there are the others;
those that did not die
but made it home with injuries
to body, mind or soul.

For all of them are changed
As a result of war
Either living with injuries
Or guilt or even what they saw.

When the Bugle calls ‘Rouse’
heads lift with tear in eye
The ‘grateful’ Nation reminded
Of the debt they owe and why.

John Carré Buchanan
10 November 2011

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Prayer of the Insomniac

Image Source:

I have great difficulty establishing a sleep pattern. I regularly go for between 3 and 5 days with no sleep, or crash out for 24 hours. I have tried all the ideas covered by health professionals; no caffeine, routine, no excitement before bed, limit TV before bed, relaxation etc. I have done my own research into the subject during which I found the blog from which the image above came, but all to no avail. Uunfortunately when my leg is hurting 8+/10 and I can't escape the pain I still end up with my eyes looking and feeling like the one above. On one such night I penned this little poem and as I am currently awake at 04:30 I thought it was appropriate to post it.

Prayer of the Insomniac

Darkness engulfs all
yet sleep eludes me yet again.
Nothing can sooth the ache which consumes me.
The darkness creeps inside.
Let me sleep and not wake.

John Carré Buchanan
02 August 2011

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

7,000,000,000


The United Nations used yesterday to symbolically announce the birth of the 7 billionth human. The celebrations began in the Philippines, where baby Danica May Camacho* was born just before midnight on the 30th October.

Danica (which means Morning star) joins the rest of us on a planet which is quickly becoming overcrowded and devastated by mankind. The “celebrations” inspired me to write this poem;

(* in Photo from MSN Today News)

7 Billion

They say the world’s population
hit seven billion people today.
That’s a seven with nine noughts on the end,
And some say hip hip hip hooray!

I think that this is a tragedy,
for mankind is the scourge of the earth,
the fact that our population’s soaring
is hardly a reason for mirth.

We devour the planet’s resources
and pollute the streams and the air
the oceans are full of our garbage;
truth be known we don’t care

Oh, we pretend to be concerned
about the damage we do to the earth
but as soon as the price increases
we scream blue murder, and worse.

We allow our leaders to stagger
from one treaty to the next
and as soon as things get a bit tricky
all good intentions are vexed.

Our numbers will increase further,
They say a billion a decade or more.
We’ll end up fighting for water
like we’ve fought for oil before.

What a sorry state of affairs it is,
that our numbers have soured so high
without learning to share resources
and cherish all under the sky.

John Carré Buchanan
31 October 2011

Monday, 24 October 2011

Silence


A few weeks ago I attended a poetry workshop in a lovely old house owned by a friend. The weekend allowed me to spend a considerable amount of time in large silent rooms and uninterrupted; I managed to write 5 poems in 2 days. This poem came about as I sat in the drawing room and listened to the silence.

Sitting in silence is an interesting thing to do. If you try it you will quickly discover that we are very rarely able to sit in total silence. That day I could hear an orchestra playing in the old house.

Silence

The house is quiet, but not silent.
I can hear an orchestra.

The stray branch which scrapes the window
mimics the strings as they warm up.

As wind caresses the chimney pot
a flute plays in the fire place.

The ‘woods wind’ can be heard
through the old sash windows.

The rattle of a door as it sways against its latch
adds percussion.

Then, as a spoon tinkles in a distant cup
and a pianist springs to life.

In the hall the grandfather clock conducts
beating out a steady rhythm.

Footsteps herald the arrival of coffee
and the moment passes.

John Carré Buchanan
21 September 2011

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Saints Bay


I live a few hundred meters from a beautiful secluded bay called Saints Bay. The steep descent to the bay and the lack of parking mean that whilst it is one of the best beaches in Guernsey it is never too crowded. Unfortunately it also means that on most days I am unable to get down on to the beach too, but I hold the memories of the bay in my mind. I thought I would share these memories with you;

Saint’s Bay

The stone tower overlooks the bay,
round, grey and austere
it’s slotted windows ever watchful.

Down below two granite slipways
slide from land to sea,
red carpets of welcome.

Grey stones give way to golden sand
exposed by the retreating tide,
silver pools glinting here and there.

Around the bay tall cliffs
stand like sentinels,
clothed in vibrant green.

Waves rush ashore and withdraw,
their white petticoats
flowing over the sand.

Beyond the breakers
pink and orange buoys bob happily
waiting for boats to return.

Lying on the stones, eyes closed,
I listen to birdsong, wave rushed pebbles
and the chatter of children.

The heady scent of honeysuckle
and the fresh sea air
assail my senses.

The pebbles I lie on are hard,
but their smooth surfaces have been warmed
By the sun’s loving gaze.

Here in the bay of the saints,
eyes closed in glorious worship,
I am at home – Heaven.

John Carré Buchanan
12 July 2010

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Home


I have been very fortunate to have travelled the world extensively as both child and adult. I was born in Trinidad and sailed back to the Channel Islands via the UK at the age of about 6 weeks. Shortly after that we sailed out to Kenya via the Suez Canal. I remained in East Africa for Three years before returning to Britain via the Cape of Good Hope. By the time I was four I had crossed the Atlantic and circumnavigated Africa on board 3 liners.

My parents knew that if I continued to live with them I would be constantly changing school and in order that I had a stable education they sent me to boarding school whilst they continued to Globe Trot. By this time Airliners had become the normal means of travel and so my school Holidays were full of trips to exotic countries such as; Ascension Island, Mauritius, Hong Kong, Grand Cayman and Gibraltar, to name a few.

This nomadic lifestyle continued when I joined the Army on leaving school. I moved regularly sometimes for a few weeks and other times for months or years. By the time I left the Army the longest I had lived in one place was three years.

I have now lived in Guernsey for eight years and I am still enjoying the stability that has come with remaining in one place. I was thinking about this about a year ago and thought that it might be fun to pen some verse on the different forms of accommodation I have lived in over the years. I hope you enjoy the results of this endeavour;

Home

I boarded at school
along with my brother,
spending our holls.
with Father and Mother.

I’ve lived in the tropics,
the Far East and near,
a while in the US,
I even lived here.

I spent years in barracks
surrounded by wire,
with guards on the gate
ready to fire.

I’ve lived in a trench,
in all kinds of weather,
wrapped in a poncho
surrounded by heather.

I lived in a port
in a bombed out warehouse.
In Hong Kong I lived in
a parquet floored penthouse.

I spent six months
In a far off region,
sharing a camp
with the Foreign Legion.

Now refugee camps
are not “state of the art”;
they have to be uncomfortable
so people depart.

While a shipping container’s
a ready made shelter
it’s freezing in winter,
and in summer you swelter.

The heat of a jungle
the cold of the snow
these are the things
I’ve come to know

I’ve lived in buildings
as tall as the sky
and down in the cuds
but these I decry;

For all of these places
have become part of me,
but none were a home
without my family.

John Carré Buchanan
25 September 2010

Image: NASA/Via the Daily Mail

Saturday, 8 October 2011

It's What You Scatter


I am breaking with my normal form by posting someone else's thoughts. The following story was sent to me in one of those circular emails. Normally I read and then consider the message and then delete them as I don't like emails with my private email address going to hundreds of other people. but the message in this one caught my attention and I had to share it. I hope you enjoy it;

It's What You Scatter

I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas.

I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes.

Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store owner) and the ragged boy next to me.

'Hello Barry, how are you today?'
'H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas.. They sure look good.'
'They are good, Barry. How's your Ma'?
'Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time.'
'Good. Anything I can help you with?'
'No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas.'

'Would you like to take some home?' asked Mr. Miller.
'No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with.'
'Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?'
'All I got's my prize marble here.'
'Is that right? Let me see it', said Miller.
'Here 'tis. She's a dandy.'
'I can see that. Hmm mmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?' the store owner asked.
'Not zackley but almost.'
'Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble'. Mr. Miller told the boy.
'Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.'

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me.
With a smile she said, 'There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, when they come on their next trip to the store.'

I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado , but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles.

Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his visitation that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.

Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts...all very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one; each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her of the story from those many years ago and what she had told me about her husband's bartering for marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket. 'Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about.
They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim 'traded' them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size....they came to pay their debt.'

'We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,' she confided, 'but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho.' With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

The Moral:

We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind deeds. Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath.

- ANON -

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Race


Sorry to my regular readers for my last post. It was posted in a particularly bad bout of pain related depression and as such is at odds with several of my other blogs. I have decided to leave it up as it shows a side of me that I do not normally blog about and as such might offer some comfort or even balance to readers who suffer from chronic pain. I guess the message to take away is we all have times when our emotions and our ailments get on top of us.

I made the mistake of overdoing things yesterday and as a result I ended up in a world of pain and didn't get to sleep, somewhere in the midst of that I allowed self-pity to dominate my feelings.

Today, having spent several hours using the mental skills I have mentioned in previous blogs (‘The Pebble' and ‘Truths’) I am back in control of my feelings. As a penance I am going to post a poem called ‘The Race’, which was written to remind me that I should not allow myself to become the victim.

When I wrote the poem I was thinking of two people who I admire a great deal, Oscar Pistorius the South African sprinter known as the Blade Runner and Chris Moon an old Army colleague who now speaks as a motivational speaker. Both of these gentlemen have excelled in their lives in spite of their disabilities. To me they are the epitome of strength of character and courage, both of them stressed the importance of getting on with life in spite of difficulties and avoiding becoming the victim.

The Race

“Take – Your – Marks”
The figures bend and kneel,
search out the line and all is still.

Fingers
“Set”
Knees rise, fingers and arms take the strain,
Power checked.

The gun rises,
Eyes fixed, ears pricked, all is still;
Save one finger….

Crack.
Legs drive into the blocks,
Bodies hurl forward heads still down.

With each step the pace increases,
Heads come up to see the goal.
And now focus….

Measured Strides…..
The race is on,
Feet and heart pound in time

The tape draws near
Concentrate ….. and….. dip
Arms flung back the chest broaches the line.

The long drawn breath,
The look to see who won,
and the joy to feel a race well run.

John Carré Buchanan
03 May 2010

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Half a Job

Image Source:

Richard Bach made the following observation in his book Illusions;

“The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”

In recent years I have found this idea to be most useful in surviving moments of depression but occasionally, I have found that it does not stimulate the same defensive thoughts and I am left asking myself a much more fundamental question.

Today has been one such day. I have been busier than normal and, having done too much, I am now suffering with both increased pain levels and depression.

I’ve been searching for an answer to the following ‘simple’ question; the problem is the answer is not simple. The question; What is the point of living when you spend most of your life racked in pain and unable to do almost everything you enjoy doing?

I have heard the standard answers, “luckier than others”, “loving family”, “I’m needed”, “almost, isn’t everything”, and “there is hope”….. but to be brutally honest when the chips are down and the spiral of doom is turning the wrong way these answers are not good enough.

I’m exhausted, frightened, angry, depressed and in agony. When our dogs were ill and in pain we made the difficult decision to put them down, the decision was born out of a very deep love for them and a deep desire to end their suffering. I wish with all my heart that our society was not so averse to offering humans the same dignity.

So if there is anyone out there who can answer the question please enlighten me. When you can’t live your life as your true self, what is the point of living?

The best I have come up with thus far is another Richard Bach quote;

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished:
If you're alive, it isn't.”

My poem for today is based on a thought I have had almost every day since my accident;

Half a Job

I wish she’d done a better job,
the woman who hit me.
For if she’d done it properly,
I would not live in misery.

John Carré Buchanan
12 November 2010

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Framed


Autumn is on its way and the garden is beginning to shut down. Soon leaves will start to turn orange and red. I am told that the weather this year has been unusually good for photosynthesis and as such many plants are carrying high levels of sugar. This means we are likely to see a particularly colourful autumn this year. Add to that, the fact that some plants have been tricked into flowering again by a last minute Indian summer, and it is a truly amazing time to be looking at what is happening in the garden.

A few months ago when I was working I remember rushing out to the car sticks in hand bag falling off shoulder and running into a web that a spider had spun across the archway. I remember cursing the spider as I removed silk from my face and then, having had a pang of guilt recriminating myself for destroying his/her web. I ended up concluding that it was a stupid place for a spider to put a web. I then threw everything into the car and rushed off to work.

A couple of weeks ago I was again leaving the house, this time considerably slower and less cluttered. This time I had time to stop and admire the spider's work before ducking under it and heading off. The image of the beautiful web hanging in the Jasmine framed archway around our front door stuck in my mind. It is now two weeks later and I can still see how the sun glinted on the web which was set off by the greens of the jasmine leaves.

That day I learnt a valuable lesson; When you rush through life you may occasionally notice things, particularly if they slap you in the face, but the memories of them are indistinct and fade, smothered by the adverse feelings associated with rushing. But if you take time to live each moment of your life at the speed at which it was designed to be lived at, you will notice more, remember more and enjoy your life more.

Who knows if you then take the time to write about it, you may even be able to share the moment with others and make a moment in time seem like an age.

Here is my poem; not as grand as the spiders web and not as beautiful as the Jasmine, but enough for me to share the moment. I hope you enjoy it;

Framed

Broken sun light shines through the jasmine
which wrecks the symmetry of the stone arch.

The jumble of green leaves and white flowers,
burst from the frame, as if to claim nature has no order.

Yet at the apex of the curve, the light hints -
as it glints through drops on a line, that this is not so.

Here in this space, of scented chaos
hangs a pure symmetry of silken thread.

Did the spider know when it wove its web
of nature’s plan to frame it?

John Carré Buchanan
16 September 2011

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Companion


In 1991 I was presented with a Blackthorn which bears a silver ferrule engraved with a message from the team who gave it to me. The stick is beautiful, 91cm of deep black knobbly Blackthorn with a marbled golden brown root ball for a handle and a brass ferrule to protect the foot end when being used.

Of all the military keepsakes I was given, which included several marvellous limited edition statuettes; this one is my favourite. As a young man I believed I would never need it but it got lugged around the world as I travelled with the Army.

Following the accident I began to use the Blackthorn, I quickly learnt that it had a little trick up its ferrule. The root ball handle would wear a small hole in my hand if I leaned too heavily or used it too much. I took this as inspiration, understanding it to mean “hey you, you've got your own legs - use them!”

Unfortunately my condition worsened and I have regressed to using two sticks and now carry a small lump of hardened skin in the palm of my hand! That said one of my current pain management goals is to be able to 'park' the sticks in the shell case in the corner of the hall untill I am an old man.

Over the weekend I attended an excellent poetry workshop which was hosted by Livia Bluecher and Candy Neubert and sponsored by the Guernsey Arts Commission. As one of the exercises I was asked to write a poem on the loss an object feels when its owner leaves it. My Blackthorn was beside me as I wrote this;

The Companion

We spent many hours together
on the cliffs or in the heather.
I bore your weight, steadied you,
quietly listened to you,
supported you
and checked the path.
You held me in your hand
as we plucked blackberries out of reach.
You pulled me up
when I sank in sand on the beach.
Your hand warmed me on icy days,
took comfort from my strength.
Now cold
and propped beside your stripped bed,
my handle gathers dust.
My silver ferrule, so lovingly polished, tarnished.
To them I am a stick.
To you I was freedom;
you shared your life with me,
you gave this blackthorn reason.

John Carré Buchanan
18 September 2011

Saturday, 10 September 2011

9/11


I walked out of a classroom where I had been studying database engineering, conscious that the background noise had changed. On entering the headquarters, I kept hearing words ‘America’ and ‘New York’. Back in the office silent faces were turned to the wall mounted TVs which screened a permanent live news feed. I turned to look at the screen just in time to see the second attack take place.

Within minutes everyone was busy implementing plans that had been outlined to cover such events. All over the country military and government establishments were being cloaked in a huge security blanket which within hours would cover the whole nation. All the while eyes kept flicking to the TV screens which continued to play pictures of the tragedy in New York.

As that day unfolded images were forever scored onto billions of people’s retinas, images that will live with generations of people around the world. The towers slipping into the dust cloud, people jumping, and the tear stained dust covered faces of men and women who were on the streets of New York that day.

The military and civil servants in our headquarters were hardened people, most of them had been involved in preparing, supporting and conducting a wide variety of military operations around the world but this was different. We had all seen the effects of war and terrorism on civilian populations and many of us had witnessed genocide, but attacks on this scale and of this nature were almost unthinkable and there was an air of shock and disbelief.

Whilst the concept behind the attack was not new, (Tom Clancy wrote two books in the mid 90’s in which a passenger aircraft was flown into Congress.) it cannot be denied that the attacks on 9/11 were masterful in their simplicity and almost flawless in their execution. As military personnel we knew that the people who had planned the attacks would be sitting somewhere watching events unfold with a real sense of satisfaction, perhaps even pride. I doubt that even they could have anticipated such a spectacular success. The attack was so monumental and so well publicised that mention the date; 9/11 anywhere in the world and people will instantly know to what you are referring.

Ten years have passed and America and its allies have been in a constant war against an enemy which lives in the shadows; rising occasionally to strike before falling back into the darkness. It is true that America has had its successes most recently with the summary execution of Osama Bin Laden but when all is said and done; two wars have been initiated, hundreds of thousands of people have been maimed or killed; at a cost that would bankrupt many small nations (some would argue it has helped bankrupt the USA). Yet despite this the average American could not put a pin on a map of the world to mark countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

What is perhaps more worrying is that after all this time most Americans would not even begin to understand why their country was attacked in the first place. You may ask; ‘why do I say this is worrying?’ Well, I believe that the Chinese General and strategist Sun Tzu sums it up about 2400 years ago when he wrote;

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

9/11

Though the smoke and dust are gone,
the souls of three thousand live on.
Two thousand parents taken away;
and three thousand children had to stay.
as four planes of terror crashed
the hopes of years to come were dashed.

Ten years on; a nation greaves
in city streets strewn with leaves.
In quiet suburbs beneath blue sky
people bow their heads and cry.
Images within their minds reside
of the day a nation’s innocence died.

A war on terror was declared
the people of world were scared.
Far off lands were torn to shreds
as troops dragged people from their beds.
Searching for the men who dared
attack a nation so unprepared.

Patriots of the United States
were unaware of all the hates.
They didn’t understand
why people in a far off land
could hate them for the way they act
with so very little tact.

Ten years have passed since the date
when terrorists expressed their hate.
America has waged a war
With dirty tactics we all abhor.
Torture and Extraordinary Rendition
are tools of hatred by tradition.

As they bow their heads and pray
for the souls lost on that fateful day,
may they see the reason it occurred
and realise spreading hatred is absurd.
They say; all men are created equal
Lord; please help them avoid a sequel.

John Carré Buchanan
09 September 2011

Friday, 9 September 2011

Cats Eyes

Image Source:

I have been experimenting with semi educational poems recently, researching a topic, such as Bananas, and then putting a poem together to present the subject to the reader in a way in which something might be learnt. The following poem introduces the Tapetum Lucidum which is a layer in a cat’s eye which reflects the light back into the retina and by so doing making the light twice seen, and the cat better at seeing in the dark.

Cats Eyes

He owns the night
that owns the light.
Tapetum Lucidum and Retina
do their work.
Twice seen light
makes night, light;
and light night
means dinner.

John Carré Buchanan
22 August 2011

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Bananas


This morning I was having my breakfast and chatting about the state of the Middle East with my daughter, as I talked I realised that the whole state of affairs is absolutely bananas. With this in mind I thought I would share a poem I wrote a few weeks ago which is about that fruit.

Bananas

Mile on mile of broad leaved plants
adorned with plastic bags,
grown by corporations
and cut by men in rags.

The fruit is called “banana”
and each one looks the same
they cut them when un-ripened
which is a crying shame.

They’re shipped worldwide in coolers
And stacked in airtight stores
They’re ripened using ethylene
which also kills off spores.

The inner flesh of creamy white
is in yellow skin encased.
It’s firm, but slightly mushy
with a most distinctive taste.

Commercial bananas are engineered
biologically they’re the same
designed to have a shelf life
but the taste is rather lame.

The crop’s parthenocarpic*,
As such it can’t evolve
A pathogen could wipe it out
A problem hard to solve

But bananas grown in the wild
Are a very different thing
they’re constantly evolving
and variety’s built in.

There are little ones and big ones,
many coloured; not just yellow
Cooking ones called Plantains
and sweet ones; oh so mellow.

The banana is a staple food
For many populations
And served up cooked or eaten raw
It’s a mighty fine creation.

John Carré Buchanan
16 July 2011

* In botany and horticulture, parthenocarpy (virgin fruit) is the natural or artificially induced production of fruit without fertilization of ovules. The fruit is therefore seedless. If it affects every flower, then the plant can no longer sexually reproduce but might be able to propagate by vegetative means.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Watchers


I spent the afternoon watching my son surf on Vazon beach. Whilst I watched I wrote two poems. The first I called;

The Watchers

Waves roll in from the West
their green backs rise and morph
to tumbling white spume
just before the flat expanse
of golden sand.

Beyond the breakers
a line of silhouettes sit
watching, waiting
rising and falling as rollers
power shoreward beneath them.

Beyond them a kite surfer
prowls the shore line
occasionally leaping skyward
to sour on the wind
like a graceful albatross.

The watchers sit up
some turn toward shore
the green wall bears down
tt stands tall but does not break
and surfers begin to paddle.

Gracefully they spring to kneel
and then stand
their boards turn and glide
ahead of the foaming mass
as the ocean carries them in.

John Carré Buchanan
28 August 2011

Friday, 26 August 2011

Flare Up


For forty years I had a real problem with religion. I travelled extensively as a child and I had seen the unfairness of poverty and a number of travesties religion was blamed for. Boarding School seemed to force religion down my throat with an endless cycle of services, prayers and hypocritical teachers and clergy doing the “do as I say”, rather than the “do as I do” routine. I then joined the Army and witnessed scenes which participants claimed to be doing in the name of their God (The God in question often being the same one). I even had a British military padre try to bayonet me on one occasion.

It seemed to me that religion was behind every conflict I was involved in. I was one of the people who said “I don’t mind people having faith and I will never criticise them but it is not for me.”

About four years ago I attended an Alpha course trying to better understand what my wife believed in; I was not convinced by the efficacy of the proof that was being presented as the reason to follow Christ. The one thing I did learn was that Faith means Faith, and it is not something to be proved, I also knew I did not have it.

Towards the end of last year I decided to examine my core belief structure, particularly paying attention to the reasons for certain beliefs. I did this in an attempt to help understand why certain characteristics such as determination and duty had had such strong effects on my life.

I began to talk to the priest at Lucy’s Church and also to the other people who attended. Initially I saw normal people enjoying their journey with Christ, but as I continued to attend I realised that these were not normal people, they seemed to have something about them which gave them an edge. They seemed to be happier, even in the face of adversity, and they seemed to really care about others. Not the normal sort of care where one carries an old ladies bag, but a care which runs much deeper than that. As I listened to the sermons, read passages from the bible and spoke to my new friends I realised that my 40 year view of religion was fundamentally flawed. It was the failings of people who caused strife in the world not religion. It was not long before I realised that I had found faith and had become a Christian.

The last month or so has been different for me. A cycle of no sleep for days on end, followed by a crash where I could not stay awake and then elevated pain for two days seems to have started up. Life seems to be 3-5 days awake 1-2 asleep and then 2 in pain over and over again. During this period depression was hunting me, but thanks to friends and the mental survival tools I have been given I have managed pretty well. What has made the difference is the fact that this time around I have my faith to help me get through the rough patches (known as Flare Ups) and I know that I am not alone and I am being prayed for.

The poem below describes what it is like to experience a flare up. The fact I could write the poem is evidence that my Faith in Christ and the support of the Church I have joined is helping me to survive.

Flare Up

The tormenting ache is obscured
replaced by searing agony.
I feel the flesh melt,
Imagine the blisters as they bubble,
blacken and crisp over.
The edges split and retract
to reveal red tissue below.
It blackens and the cycle starts again.

My mind tells me it’s not true,
burnt nerves can’t feel.
but this is no ordinary fire
no water can quench these flames.
Born deep within neural pathways
they burn as intense as
the a charcoal maker’s kiln
consuming all reason and sanity.

Bed covers lie thrown back
the soft linen had burnt;
as its folds crept like molten lava,
and scorched everything in their path.
The mind fights for control
looking to stem the flow
as if closing the sluice on a stream
but the gate valve is stuck

Thoughts are marshalled,
challenged and found wanting.
Well-rehearsed counter points are delivered.
Slowly control is regained.
Unhelpful thoughts rally for a final push
but once again the mind delivers a ‘coup de grace’,
another battle is won
and the leg will bare weight today.

John Carré Buchanan
19th August 2011

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Torn Trees

Image Source:

I found this image on the internet a few months ago and it inspired me to write this poem;

Torn Trees

The silence - is deafening.
No birdsong,
no fish jumping,
not even a chirping cricket.

The ‘Great One’ stands defeated
It’s magnificent head severed
in a blinding flash
as Zeus vented his rage.

A few trees remain,
buttressed against the onslaught,
they stand tall,
discussing terms with the clouds.

Stunted stumps of others
cut down in their prime
Jut from the surface
as if hewn by a mighty scythe.

A long breath is drawn.
Water flows across the battlefield
Gently clearing away
evidence of the fray.

Reflections lie motionless
too exhausted to shimmer
on the still water’s surface.
Waiting for a different light.

John Carré Buchanan
20 May 2011

Monday, 1 August 2011

Perfect Ten


I was thinking about my daughter who is currently on the 22nd World Scout Jamboree. This poem formed in my mind so I scribbled it down and dedicate it to her.

Perfect Ten

The proud father’s stands,
holding in his hands
a new-born child.
He tickles her feet
with manicured nail
forging a love that’ll never fail.

Fingers dwarf her little feet,
Perfectly formed and complete
Ten tiny toes
In two neat rows
Where they’ll carry her
No one knows.

He runs a finger from toe to heel,
she lets out a tiny squeal
and curls her toes.
In years to come she’ll not know
He holds the moment in his mind
when his love for her was first enshrined,

John Carré Buchanan
31 July 2011

For Elanor.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Reward


I was chatting with a friend of mine who is working in Uganda at the moment. He had just finished a hard day flying and was settling down to a nice cold Nile. His description of the beer; “Cold and sweet amber nectar, moisture is running gently down the bottles exterior. One takes a thoughtful look into a distant horizon, as it gently flows across ones lips. Ahhhhh” reminded me of a similar occasion 20 years ago when I served in Belize. I was responsible for discharging two “Maintenance ships”. These vessels bought all the heavy equipment the forces required to operate, and returned equipment that was damaged or not required to the UK.

Unloading these ships was both challenging and rewarding. The equipment available to us for the discharge was basic, and on both occasions there was a rain storm which made everything that bit more treacherous and difficult.

Two things I remember most about that job, were this sign on the Port gate;

and the tradition of retiring to the beautiful colonial veranda of number 4 Fort Street after the job was done. There the exhausted Ops team sat and drank ice cold Pina Coladas served in what I can only describe as a glass the size of a small goldfish bowl.

The seed for the following poem had been sown;


The Maint. Ship

Harsh dockside lights illuminate the pier sparkling in the heavy tropical rain.
Stevedores wait patiently as Pilot and Master bring her alongside,
scuppers spewing rainwater.

Heaving lines are thrown and caught, hawsers drawn in and made fast,
the Gangway’s lowered. As the Pilot disembarks he shouts greetings
to boarding Customs and Ship Agents.

The Radio crackles, sparking a flurry of activity as stevedores spring into action.
Hatch covers are raised as chain gangs descend on the cargo to un-lash.
High above crane operators peer through the rain - waiting.

The hold reverberates with the rattles and clangs of shackles, chains, strops, hooks,
As they compete with the incessant drum of the torrential downpour.
A torch summons the hook from above.

The hours pass in a flurry of activity, hooks dip into the hold, their chains dangling
Stevedores clamber over the vehicles and ammunition pallets readying each lift
and vital equipment emerges from the hold.

Shore side, high-viz vests and flashing lights dance an intricate two-step
as vehicles are unlashed and driven off, and stores are loaded on trucks
and all the while the rain pours.

The light changes as dawn passes unnoticed and the crews change shift,
tired grease and rust stained bodies exchanged for fresh eager faces.
But the discharge doesn’t pause.

Tween decks are cleared and the hold’s vertical walls disappear into the depths,
The chain gang finishes un-lashing, in the boot deep rain water,
As they clear the dunnage, the last load emerges.

Down on the pier dented, broken or redundant equipment starts to arrive.
and with hardly a pause the re-load commences, equipment bound for home.
And still it pours.

Finally the job is done, formalities complete, customs and ships agents down.
As the pier’s cleared of debris the vessel slips its berth and heads for home.
Suddenly the rain stops.

The troops head back to camp, exhausted but proud of the job they’ve done.
The boss and his ops team retire to the cool veranda at Four, Ford Street
to savour a ‘Pina Colada’ like no other.

John Carré Buchanan
30 July 2011

Monday, 18 July 2011

Smiles Apart


I met one of my school masters in town today. He retired from teaching a few years ago and returned to Bangladesh with his family.

We had a bit of a chat and he told me that he had returned to teaching, but rather than at a public school he was now teaching street children. These young children were attending school between jobs or instead of scavenging for the next meal. Many of them had no home to return to and lived on very dangerous streets.

We discussed the difference in attitude towards school between the kids he used to teach and those he teaches now. I must admit that having seen kids walking miles to school in a number of countries; what he told me came as no surprise.

I decided I would write this poem to record the difference;


Smiles Apart

The kids sit in the back of the car
A big, posh four by four,
Their mother’s taking them to school
A place they all abhor.

They’re dressed up smart at start of day
and their faces wear a frown.
by break they’ll have their shirt tails out
as tie and socks come down.

They talk in class and muck about
And tease those keen to learn
They have to hear things several times
As they their lessons spurn.

Their homework seems to take an age
and boy don’t they complain
they’d rather play on their x-box
then develop their brain.

These kids are a privileged lot
most eat three times a day
they get to sleep in their own beds
and have toys with which to play.

In other parts of our world
The story’s very different
Some kids live on the streets alone
while society remains indifferent.

These kids have horrific tales,
they’re often all alone,
Two things they have in common.
Abuse; and nowhere to call home.

There are kids who live with kin
and some even go to school
but they work in their spare time
and life is often cruel.

Governments, charities and missions
Offer some poor children schooling
And kids can walk for many miles
Their journey often gruelling.

Some lucky kids have uniforms
They are always smartly worn
and the children pay attention
when the teacher’s in front of form.

These children are all eager
To learn and better themselves
They take nothing for granted
And work as hard as elves.

They wear smiles on their faces
and grasp opportunity by the hand,
they do all they can to better themselves
and stride forth from where they stand.

Many kids of the rich, like their parents,
take for granted the privilege they share.
They moan at the chances they’re given
and with glum faces shout ‘It’s not fair”.

And then there’s the kid in a million
Who grows up with a conscience fair
and devotes their life to poor children;
the ‘have nots’ in need of care.

John Carré Buchanan
19 July 2011

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Hands


Between the ages of 7 and 18, I went to boarding school and access to family was pretty restricted. I spent most holidays with my parents who lived in a number of exotic locations overseas, but I used to spend my Sunday exeats with my Grandparents.

This afternoon I was thinking about all the Sundays we spent together back then. I remember Gran best as sadly Grandpa died when I was only 11. Gran always treated my brother and me as if we were her own sons and I guess during those magical Sundays we were!

I wrote this poem shortly after Gran died;

Hands

I sit beside her bed,
thinking of what’s ahead.

Her frail hand rests in mine,
and our fingers entwine.

Our hands wear their love,
as if it were a glove.

Her gnarled arthritic finger,
upon my palm does linger.

Could it remember the time,
it first met mine?

My tiny pink hand,
gripping her wedding band.

Perhaps it could recall,
holding me lest I fall?

Or swinging me by the arm,
As we walked around the farm.

And with a gentle squeeze,
my worries she’d appease.

But alas as I grew,
our embraces became few.

It wasn’t cool for a young man,
to be seen holding hands with Gran.

Yet in the autumn she took my arm,
and it had a certain charm.

Her hand would rest on mine,
as we walked beside the brine.

Well met these hands, o’er all the years,
They’ve shared both happiness and tears.

We sit in silence, no words needed,
as memories of our hands are heeded.

She draws my fingers to her lips,
And with a gentle kiss; she slips.

John Carré Buchanan
10 September 2010

Visitors






Free counters!



Popular Posts

Blogs I Enjoy Following

  • Punk As Fuck - I'd swallow pills for simple thrills And drink as if i had to sink Into a world that felt more real A place where i could think My head would spin from de...
    1 day ago
  • Secret Cabaret - Ian Duquemin - In this secret cabaret Sheets in twisted disarray Hair disheveled, skin unclean The mirrors misted ghostly sheen Amidst this den of tortured lies Still echoi...
    2 days ago
  • SWINGS AND ROUNDABOUTS - My poem, The Swing, has been around for a while. I included it in my 2012 collection* Strange Journey* and, following a minor rewrite, here it is again, no...
    3 days ago
  • Memories - I remember after moving here, all the family loved to visit. It was the place to make memories. Paddling in the river. Feeding the ducks. Watching the lam...
    1 week ago
  • Song for you - Before you go I’ll write a song, A love song for you; With endless skies infinity blue And a summer breeze to weigh our love; I’ll write of a loving sweet fr...
    2 weeks ago
  • Kentucky Racial Tension - No racial tension In Lexington Kentucky Just tense & intense races Black & white race Cat & rat race Foot Ford train & plane race I am lost amidst this
    4 weeks ago
  • Stop, Drop, and Roll - *I didn't realize how long it has been since I have been here to write* *Change often seems to create a sense of suspended animation* *where the outer wor...
    4 months ago
  • The soul... - Photo - Barbara Allen 2016 The soul starts out on high, in a peaceful place, and then at birth it comes down, to inhabit a body, and is swept into a ragin...
    4 months ago
  • This Job, Not That Job - *What I'm reading: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon* *What I'm listening to: Incomplete by James Bay* Isn't it fun to spend your birthday ...
    9 months ago
  • ... gloriously exciting! - There is something gloriously exciting about anticipating ones next Chad assignment, sitting in the back of the relative comfort of seat 34J, the the dron...
    2 years ago
  • Time-Out - Every now and again in life we come across a bump or hurdle. It can come in our relationships, our finances or as in my case, health. Right now I've been...
    3 years ago
  • thumbs up - it was a battle. looking back i don't think we ever had a chance, but you don't just give up on a young man in the prime of his life. we had to try. he ...
    3 years ago

Blog Archive